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Everyone needs a rest day to let their muscles recover, rebuild, and become stronger. A rest day does not mean lying in bed and watching your favorite Netflix series, though. There is still a way to get a workout in and let it aid in the recovery process without imposing undue stress on the “injured” body parts. That is known as an active rest day, otherwise known as active recovery.

An active rest day involves performing lighter exercises with less intensity than on your normal workout day. You may still be working out but the demands placed on your body have been severely decreased, this will help aid in recovery and decreases delayed onset muscle soreness.  There are many more benefits to an active rest day, such as reducing injury due to over-use and repetitive strain injuries. These injuries are very common in those that do “too much”. Repetitive strain on your muscles and joints will end up being more harmful than beneficial. The workload you are placing on your body will not give your muscles the time they need to recover, rebuild, and grow. This is why an active rest day may be great for you. You are still able to work out - just at a lower intensity of training. You may think doing more is better; in fact, it is true that sometimes doing less means more. Too many people are obsessed with the amount of time they spend in the gym. For those that do not see a great increase in their overall fitness, it may be better to rethink your workouts and focus on quality over quantity.

Active rest days are catered towards more elite lifters, athletes, and those who tend to work out more than the average individual. A few example workouts for an active rest day include:

  1. Yoga
  2. Cycling
  3. Swimming
  4. “Lighter weightlifting”
  5. Playing a sport you enjoy


Written by Dustin Oliver, Personal Trainer at Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center.

For more information about active recovery, check out this article on Built Lean